Off to a caliente start

Papa Marce's feels like Baja, drinks like San Diego

Papa Shaka Mexican Lager, Loop de Loup hazy IPA, Agave Caliente agave ale, and The Funk for Red October
  • Papa Shaka Mexican Lager, Loop de Loup hazy IPA, Agave Caliente agave ale, and The Funk for Red October

The pair of Brewery Igniter turnkey brewhouses along the Carlsbad stretch of El Camino Real got off to a rocky start. The dudes behind Rouleur Brewing and Wiseguy Brewing were relative newcomers to San Diego, and it took time for local beer drinkers to catch on to what they were doing. Wiseguy didn’t make it. Rouleur stuck it out through lean times, eventually gaining recognition for high quality brews in its second year, and winning a World Beer Cup medal to prove it.

Rouleur’s new neighbor shouldn’t have to wait so long to find a fanbase. Its name, Papa Marce’s Cerveceria, may seem like a mouthful to anglophones. But founder Mark Amador has worked in the local industry a quarter century, developing ties within the beer community. That may be enough to get local beer drinkers to pay attention.

Fortunately, Papa Marce’s is pouring beers made well enough to justify it. Head brewer Grant Heuer joined Amador following a stint with Vista’s Indian Joe Brewing, and two months in, Papa Marce beers demonstrate promising quality across a breadth of styles, appearing poised to meet standards set by San Diego beer fans.

I had wandered in planning only to sample a four-beer tasting flight, then decided to stick around and keep going. The Papa Shaka Mexican lager offered robust flavor, smoothed out by the addition of flaked corn. The Loop de Lupe delivers a hazy, Northeast IPA anchored with the appealing piny bitterness of the West Coast style. I found a pleasant surprise with Funk for Red October, a brett fermented sour showing ruby red clarity, and refreshing, complex tartness finished with an infusion of cherry and cranberry.

The oddball of the bunch has to be the Agave Caliente. Most beers designated “caliente” are so named because they’re augmented by chili peppers. That’s not the case here; this beer was brewed during our summer heat wave with hothead ale yeast, which may ferment at temperatures more than twenty degrees higher than the usual. The resulting nine percent ale drank hot with alcohol, so Heuer cut the ten-barrel batch with 55 pounds of blue agave syrup that had been earmarked for a sour ale. The result is a moderately sweet ale that finishes like a tequila, bolstered by that spirit kick. I couldn’t call it my favorite beer on the board, but perhaps the most interesting: I’ve never come across a beer like it.

As I continued sampling Papa Marce’s offerings, other standouts included the Punky Brutster, a fragrant brut IPA made in collaboration with Chula Vista’s Thr3e Punk Ales, and another large beer, the 10.4-percent blackberry sour She’s a Jam Eater. The barrel produced sours have me particularly excited with where this brewery is going.

But after that big, juicy sour red ale, I decided to switch to water, sticking around to chat with fellow customers and enjoy the artwork and décor. Modeled after a Baja cantina, Papa Marce’s tasting room has enough character to feel welcoming but not contrived. It differentiates itself from the cycling-inspired Rouleur next door, but with the two brewhouses now firing on all cylinders, Carlsbad folk have reason to visit both.

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